Monday, February 27, 2006

a diamond in the rough

Trawling my old college newspaper always turns up idiocy of one stripe or another. Usually I view the idiocy in a fond, nostalgic light, but in the case of this badly argued piece, I found myself lacking patience.

The author raises this point: The fundamental questions in the rioters’ collective mind are these: How can public media outlets in secular, minority-protecting societies promote language that debases a major world religion? Why is there no condemnation of this prejudice by governments that protect these societies? The misunderstanding of the publications is ironic, because it is based in an understanding that “free dissemination of ideas and culture” characterizes the mainstream newspapers that chose to print the cartoons. How could they be so pre-ironic?

First off, I object to the use of "ironic" in one sentence followed by "pre-ironic" in the next. Aside from the irritatingly bad writing, it makes me demand, well, which is it? Ironic or pre-ironic?

Secondly, the objectionable material was not "language," it was a series of cartoons. The visuals are what sent people over the edge.

Thirdly, "collective mind"? What? If such a thing existed, why would this author of all people be elected to decode it? And why would the collective mind get its collective panties in a twist about the debasement of a major world religion when such debasement HAPPENS ALL THE TIME, to ALL religions, and is indicative of, you know, Enlightenment doing its thing?

This leads into the whiny author's next attempt to rationalize the rioting: according to him (and the top notch, totally with it president of Iran), Islam is treated with contempt in the Western press while Judaism is protected. His proof? That an Austrian was recently given a jail sentence for Holocaust denial -- or, as he piously puts it, for challenging Europe's "dominant narrative." What's the submissive narrative, friend? An alien invasion took over the earth between the years of 1939 and 1945, planted phony evidence, abducted 10 million people, and altered our memories so that we only think a genocide and a war took place?

Granted, the sentencing of that fool is straight out of the Dumbassery Textbook for Overreaching (possibly Well-Meaning) Dumbasses. But Austria is one country. Its dumbass decisions belong to it alone and are hardly representative of a Western press where Israel is frequently criticized and religions -- again, ALL of them -- come up for their fair share of ridicule. Even what the author claims is a sacred cow, the Holocaust, has been pilloried in that Holocaust cartoon contest. Those caricatures have been published already, and to what outcry? Art Spiegelman demonstrated his total lack of care by publishing his own in the New Yorker, although sadly they're not visible online.

The author finishes up with the repetition of his rhetorical question, "Whose history and culture are protected from criticism?" Cuz he's a real Perry Mason, this guy. But in trying to pass the buck to the Jews, he abandons his initial point, which was that he was disappointed that violence broke out in a city he loved. A valid and sad comment ridden off the rails by his need to place the blame for that violence somewhere, anywhere, other than on the shoulders of the perpetrators.

Luckily there's this to boost your spirits. My friend little Adam has donned a cloak once worn by Emily Post -- probably obtained over eBay -- and become Mr. Manners. His column is a gem and I promise never, not once, uses the phrase "dominant narrative."


Adam said...

Aaaaww, thanks for the shout-out, and I'm so glad you still read my column. I only wish I had started writing it Freshman year.

Yes, that opinion piece you talk about was really silly. But so goes it: the Phoenix sucks a lot.

That Austrian case is fascinating, isn't it? Irving's actually British, though - which is what makes it even more exciting. He's already lost a libel case there, in which a court, in order to rule against him, had to prove that the Holocaust indeed did happen. He lost everything he was worth but still managed to get himself to Austria to deliver talks on his revised position on the Holocaust: many people were killed, a lot of them Jews, and there may even have been gas chambers, we just don't know, or so the 'argument' goes. Have you read Barbara Lippstadt's 'Denying the Holocaust'?

I'm going to England on Wednesday!

src said...

write a letter to the editor. PLEASE!

ester said...

yeah, sarahco, i thought about it, but i'm too angry. if no one writes a letter in this week's issue then i'll try writing one for the next, i guess.

little one, britain? what for?

sarahco said...

if there's a letter in response to your letter, i promise to join the fray.

Adam said...

What do you mean, 'Britain - what for?' Don't forget:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

ester said...

Oh yeah? Well, "give pounds and crowns and guineas / but not your heart away," my friend, not even to merry old England. But thanks for the laugh.